The original Cali urban winemaker: Edmunds St. John


Recently, we highlighted what the future of California wine looks like. Today, we’re excited to offer a piece of its history. Steve Edmunds–the man behind Edmunds St. John–has opened his personal cellar and we’ve been lucky to get some iconic wines dating back over 30 years. Direct from his warehouse. Including the last two vintages of Rocks & Gravel, Durrell from the 90s, and a bottling that's never been into distribution, made by another of the OG-Rhone-Rangers, Bob Lindquist of Qupé.

If Steve’s wines are new to you, we recommend reading the spot-on article by SF Chronicle’s Esther Mobley, aptly titled “Steve Edmunds is the unsung hero of California wine.” Steve was the ultimate urban winemaker before it was cool. For decades, he’s been a one-man wine show producing wines in Berkeley sourced from vineyards growing under-the-radar varietals (for California) that he’s passionate about, like Mourvedre.

 This retrospective of 30 vintages written by Steve has some amazing anecdotes, like this momentous exchange:

“At a dinner on a Friday night in May 1995, in Davis (before a Saturday seminar on Syrah at UC Davis) Alain Graillot, a renowned Crozes-Hermitage vigneron whose wines I’ve always held in the very highest esteem, sat across the table from me, and at one point during the evening, he said to me ‘you know, we have never met before, but I have your wines in my cellar.’ At which point I said to him that I was just about to tell him the very same thing, but he’d beat me to it.”

Steve Edmunds and his wines.                                       Steve Edmunds visiting our Fulton St. shop!

The Sites & Wines

Rocks & Gravel, arguably Steve’s best known wine, is almost always a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah, made from 1985 until 2015. His first source of Mourvedre was from the Brandlin brothers (more below). But in his final vintages (‘09 on), Steve got fruit from one of our favorite farmers in Dry Creek Valley, Mick Unti. In the heart of the valley, Mick farms organically and makes some very tasty Cal-Ital under his own label.

Brandlin Ranch on Mt. Veeder is history in a bottle. Brandlin Ranch was Steve’s first source for his then-white-whale Mataro. In pursuit of the grape, he found this dry-farmed, head-pruned site planted in the 1920s. Richard and Chester Brandlin were raised on this land with their father who tended it since Prohibition. Off a handshake deal, Steve began making wine from the vineyard in 1985 and continued until 1996 when the property was sold to Napa winemaker Peter Franus, who makes a Zinfandel from here to this day.

Durell Vineyard Syrah was Steve’s first varietal Syrah and, nostalgically, one of his favorite sites. Situated in a very unique place where Sonoma Valley intersects with Carneros–you always get the former valley’s sunshine with the latter’s cooling signature. His first vintage was in 1986 and his last was '98 (after they sold).

Bob Lindquist of Qupe, along with Steve, is part of the Mount Rushmore of California’s Rhone-focused producers. In 1995, he teamed up with Steve for the Central Coast Wine Festival auction. It was a special 50/50 blend (barrel each) of Syrah that's never been in distribution until now.

Explore the wines from these sites: shop Edmunds St. John online!